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Watch a Linux Steam Game Run on a PS4

A video shows someone managed to boot a Linux Steam game on PlayStation 4.
May 21, 2016, 6:00pm

Back when the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were announced in 2013, I recall there was much talk about the "end of console gaming" because both consoles had x86 architecture. In effect, that makes them barely different than most modern PCs. This knowledge hasn't caused the great, total shift to PC gaming that forum prophets foretold at the time, of course, but a recent video showing a PS4 running Linux Steam games reveals just how closely the device is related to ordinary PCs.

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The actual programming is the work of the console hacking team "fail0verflow," who announced that they'd managed to make the PS4 run Linux at Germany's Chaos Communication Congress event last January. Back then, they'd only managed to get the system to run an emulator for 2001's Gameboy Advance, but now that they've managed to figure out how to accelerate the PS4's GPU, we can get a better idea of what this means for more contemporary games.

A video demonstrating their work from YouTuber OsirisX has been around since last month, but it's only now starting to pick up traction because OsirisX wrote about his efforts on Wololo's forums yesterday.

What you're seeing in the video isn't Valve's Linux-based operating system SteamOS. Instead, it's a version of Arch Linux running Steam in Big Picture mode, an interface designed for the TV.

Unfortunately for would-be imitators, the process technically isn't possible anymore on a PS4 with up-to-date software since Sony closed the necessary exploit after the 1.76 patch. Nevertheless, fail0verflow has the some of the necessary files on Github for anyone who's inclined to try.

Is it an ideal setup? Not really. OsirisX's video shows the PS4 running the Linux version of Bastion on Steam, and Bastion (which you could once play in your Chrome browser) is hardly a technically demanding game. Even with the hardware acceleration from the hack, though, it's easy to see the framerates dip occasionally as the PS4 struggles to keep up. There's some speculation on Reddit, though, that the hack doesn't actually include the RAM specifically used for PS4's video processing.

For now, then, it's a novelty and little more.